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Most Californians are on alert as a streak of brutal weather continues

DWANE BROWN, HOST:

Hundreds of thousands of Californians lost power. And tens of thousands have fled their homes. Major highways are closed up and down the state this morning due to flooding.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

California is in the middle of its fifth major storm since Christmas. And more storms are on the way. Here's California's state climatologist, Michael Anderson.

MICHAEL ANDERSON: These are interesting events in that each individually, not all that awe-inspiring in terms of, oh, my gosh, that's a monster storm. It's the fact that you're just having so many of them with little break in between them.

BROWN: Joining us from Sonoma County, just north of San Francisco, is KQED reporter Danielle Venton. Well, Danielle, it's been a wet night and morning up and down the state. How are these storms affecting folks where you are?

DANIELLE VENTON, BYLINE: Here in Sonoma County, we've had people die from falling trees, people rescued from getting their vehicles stuck in water, hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to roads. And we've had a lot of people who live along the Russian River, which for decades has been a hotspot for flooding damage in the western U.S., be displaced. I visited with some of these people to hear what they've been going through. I met Louis Britton, who lives in an RV in a town called Guerneville on the banks of the Russian River.

LOUIS BRITTON: In the area that I live, flood is at 30 feet. So yeah, so I was like, well, I guess it's time to go.

VENTON: He's part of a group of evacuees who live in RVs or trailers who have come to a private park. It's really a kid's playground. There's about 50 people, including about 20 children. And they've been living here for the last few days because where they normally park their homes, it's just too dangerous. They're getting support from the county, such as food and water. And they've moved in port-a-potties.

BROWN: Yeah. Danielle, we know this area of northern California is also where - burn scar, lots of fires have happened. The rains are affecting folks throughout the state now. What are you hearing from other parts of California?

VENTON: Well, there's a 34-mile levee along the Cosumnes River near Sacramento that saw several breaches during the New Year's Eve storm. There's a lot of nervousness that it could breach again and flood nearby land and homes. Elsewhere, we're seeing serious floods, with water inundating homes. In the Santa Cruz area, for example, a much-beloved pier and wharf were destroyed. And of course, more recently, farther south, parts of Santa Barbara and the entire town of Montecito received orders to evacuate immediately Monday afternoon. And five years ago there, during similarly heavy rains, a huge debris flow killed more than 20 people. And, of course, that's what officials fear could happen again and what these evacuations are meant to guard against. At least if landslides happen, people won't be there this time. And in Los Angeles County, authorities issued a flash flood warning.

BROWN: Yeah.

VENTON: Some of the places affected include Long Beach, Malibu, Beverly Hills...

BROWN: Right.

VENTON: ...Downtown. Lots of roads and highways are closed this morning due to mudslides and debris in the road.

BROWN: Oh, my goodness. Last night, the winds were so strong, Danielle, here in southern California and LA County that not only did you feel it, but it sounded like maybe there was more going on than just heavy rain and wind. We've seen, of course, a serious drought over the years. How is all this affecting that? Are we moving out of it?

VENTON: Well, it's a little complicated. I mean, these rains are causing huge problems. But they're also really helpful for our water supply.

BROWN: Yeah.

VENTON: It's going to take a couple of months before we know how our supplies are looking going into summer.

BROWN: All right. That's KQED's Danielle Venton. Thank you.

VENTON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Dwane Brown
Dwane Brown is a multiple award-winning newscaster for NPR and joined the network in December 2015. He is the first newscaster to broadcast from NPR West in Culver City, California. His newscasts air during All Things Considered.
Danielle Venton
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